Rapport building session: getting to know the students.
It’s 11.20am and I am on my way to the secondary school in Birmingham where I’ll be volunteering as lead Mosaic mentor. Today is the start of the 2012/2013 school mentoring programme. I will be assisted by three co-mentors: Nabila, Faiza and Diya.
I have my mentor resource pack, my rapport building session planning notes and last year’s mentoring notes. However, this year is going to be very different. I am going to the school as a lead mentor for the first time! The nerves are kicking in…Will I be able to deliver the sessions to the highest of my abilities and set a good example to my three co-mentors, who are mentoring for the first time? Will I be able to get the students to engage within the sessions? Oh gosh this is a huge responsibility!
Waiting in the school reception, I can feel the butterflies in my tummy. Nearly time for the session to start and my co-mentors are more scared then excited! What about if the students laugh at them – or even worse, what if they are silent and don’t respond to the activities we have planned?
Uh oh – we have a problem! The tutors in charge are both off from school today and I don’t have the photocopied resources!! I’ll have to just have to go with the flow! At least my co-mentors will be there to support me…but I will have to be calm and confident. I mean what can go wrong eh?! The students will be happy to be out of their lesson and doing something different!
The replacement tutor comes to meet us in the reception area and leads us through to the classroom we will be using for this rapport building session. All the tables, chairs and equipment looks so small; I’m too scared to take a seat in case I fall of the chair! We all opt to stand against the work surface on the side of the room used for art supplies etc. I think we look pretty cool and chilled out…hopefully the students will think so too and not think they are stuck in a heavy-duty lesson!
The students all file into the classroom one by one and sit in their own groups. There are 15 boys and 5 girls – not an ideal mix… The girls sit with the girls and the boys sit with the boys! Hmmm, I think I will address this seating arrangement in our first mentoring session in two weeks’ time. And I’m sure I’ll find a way to work with the boy/girl ratio!
The students all finally settle down and the tutor takes her place at the side of the classroom. All the students are looking at me expectantly. I’m a little worried now! All those eyes focused on me, waiting… OK! Here goes nothing!!
So I start of by introducing myself…some of the students giggle…and I remember that I forgot to add the ‘miss’ in front of my name! My school days came back to me in a rush and I remembered how every adult was either a sir or a miss! Well, now that the students had had a little giggle at my expense, I went on to introduce myself and my co-mentors, who in turn, each said a little something about themselves, by way of what stage in life they were currently at.
Just so you know a little more about me, I am a law graduate and am currently working in human resources and contract review for a charity organisation.
Having got our introductions out of the way, I went on to explain our purpose there and what Mosaic stands for and how through the Mosaic programme, we hope to enable them to learn specific skills and empower them so that they may make appropriate life decisions during any stage of their life and understand the consequences that any actions at this stage in their life, will have on their future.
When I finished this little monologue, the students had stopped talking amongst themselves and were all looking at me with interested expressions. So, I finally had their attention! Great feeling…at least this part of the rapport building session was a success!
Now, for the ice breakers!
During our planning meeting, the co-mentors and I had discussed some activities which we could use as a means of introductions and ice breakers. Having been to many training courses and interviews etc, I knew how much I disliked the traditional introductions and ice breakers. Even after so much practice I still don’t like having the spotlight on myself and having to stand up in front of fellow peers or competitors and introduce myself!
So looking back on our individual experiences, we selected a few activities which were whole-group based. We felt that this would be an appropriate way to make the introductions more comfortable and fun-filled for everyone.
We started off by playing ‘People Bingo’. This meant that everyone had to stand up, move around and talk to everyone in the group to find an answer to each of the questions. The question all involved finding out more about the people in your group by asking different and fun questions. I figured we would need about 20 minutes for this activity, knowing that the students would enjoy talking for a bit and asking more questions about certain things on the People Bingo, such as meeting famous people, doing certain activities like volunteering and speaking different languages.
And I was right! 20 minutes was by no means enough but we had to move on to other activities, so we asked the students to be seated again and their thoughts on the People Bingo game. They said it was fun because they could walk around the classroom and talk to each other, but it was difficult at times as with everyone talking at the same time, it was hard to hear what was being said.
Having already though that myself, this second activity was a little different but still would provide a lot of humour!
‘Word Association’ – I remember playing this game during a first aid training session and the most vivid memory was everyone just laughing so much because you had to say the first word that came to mind. It is an on-the-spot answer game, no thinking time, just what is on your mind in that instant!
I explained the game to the students, who looked a little daunted by the possibility of not being able to think of a word, but I assured them that that would not be the case. I started off the game with the word ‘sky’ and from there it was laughs all the way! The game covered topics from the beach to the fairground to technology and the human body and its afflictions! In the final round, to ensure that all students and mentors participated, we went round in a circle and everyone participated and the catch was that no one could say a word that had already said by someone else! This activity was a hit with all the students; it was light-hearted and gave the students a little taster of thinking on their feet and the only resource being their mind.
The final activity of this session was really more of a discussion. Session 5 and 6 of the mentoring programme will be all to do with presentations, public speaking and debating. For these sessions to be worthwhile, the topics will have to be something which the students are interested in and will have an opinion on.
I asked the students if they knew what the current hot topics were. The students were able to give me three examples. The first was the current kidnapping of the little girl in Wales, the second topic was the teacher and student who had run away to France and the third topic was to do with female education and the young girl, their own age, who had been shot by the Taliban in Pakistan because she was fighting for education rights for girls.
I was quite impressed! In light of these examples and from my experience during last year’s mentoring programme, I felt it best to ask the students to come to the next session prepared with three topics currently in the news. They would have to back up their choices with reasoning based on the importance to them, their community and the world at large.
Finally it was time to wrap up the session. Therefore I felt it was most beneficial to end this with a feedback session as this would give the students an opportunity to voice any opinions or concerns they may have. This feedback would enable us to tweak the following sessions to best match the student’s likes, dislikes and expectations.
Relief!! I think the rapport building session was a success – thanks to my co-mentors’ help and support and the cooperation of the students! Without the students, the mentoring programme could not work the way it should! Now I’m really looking forward to the next six sessions.
The biggest joy for me is too see the students develop their skills, grow as people and aspire to achieve to the highest of their abilities and never lose hope.